LSU walks to defeat Ole Miss in opener

BATON ROUGE, La. - Ole Miss, ranked 13th, and LSU were locked in a tight battle, 3-3 in the bottom of the ninth. Tiger runners were on first and third. The Ole Miss plan at that point was to walk Sean Ochinko, 3-for-3 on the night with an RBI and a run scored, on four pitches to keep him from doing further damage.

That the next LSU batter, Ryan Schimpf, who was 0-for-4 on the night, walked on four straight pitches was obviously not part of the plan. But that's exactly how things unfolded as what was left of an Alex Box Stadium crowd announced at 3,394 mostly Tiger fans roared their approval for the 4-3 victory.

Rebel reliever Scott Bittle, so effective with six saves in the early-going this season, threw eight straight balls - four planned, four not - as he fell to 1-4 in decisions. Jared Bradford, the third and final LSU pitcher in the contest and now 6-2 on the season, was the winner.

"My stuff was there. Maybe I was trying too hard," said a dejected Bittle who has experienced his share of bad moments since SEC play began.

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said a loss is a loss.

"It doesn't matter," he said of walking in the winning run. "When you get to that point, the odds are way against you."

"That point" Bianco is likely referring to was two-fold: the bases being full of opposing runners with one out, and the fact that while the Rebels had 10 hits, they only scored three runs and couldn't get a big hit when it would have helped.

"It's frustrating once again that we just don't get the timely hit and don't chain at-bats together," Bianco said. "We weren't able to extend the lead, and we were never able to get the big hit."

The Rebels might have had an opportunity to score more runs early after taking a 1-0 lead in the first, but they ran themselves out of some situations. With the game tied 1-1, Ole Miss got two runs in the top of the third but could have gotten more. With one out, Justin Henry doubled, followed by a Zack Cozart double, which scored Justin. On a Cody Overbeck single, Cozart rounded third and headed home but was thrown out by left fielder Schimpf. He missed the plate and went back to reach for it and was tagged out. Bianco argued but to no avail.

After Logan Power singled to put runners at the corner, Zach Miller singled up the middle to score Overbeck, but Power was thrown out at third by center fielder Jared Mitchell to end what could have been a bigger inning for the Rebels.

LSU answered with two runs of its own in the bottom of the third to tie things back up at 3-3.

The Tigers committed two errors in the fifth inning, but Ole Miss could not capitalize. Jordan Henry singled to lead things off, and Justin Henry made it all the way to second on a fielder's choice as Jordan was out at second. Justin was awarded second as the ball sailed into the LSU dugout from shortstop Michael Hollander.

On the first pitch to Cozart, who was up next, Justin tried to steal third but was thrown out by the catcher. Cozart then hit a ball to center fielder Mitchell for what appeared to be a routine fly ball but he dropped it. Cody Overbeck struck out to end an inning of missed opportunities for UM.

Ole Miss had another chance in the top of the seventh but again got nothing. Brett Basham singled and moved to second on a sac bunt by Jordan Henry. Justin Henry singled to left to put runners on first and second with one out. LSU changed pitchers, taking out starter Charlie Furbush and bringing in Paul Bertuccini. Cozart then popped up to second, and Overbeck flew out to center.

UM starter Will Kline, allowing an uncharacteristic 12 hits against the SEC's worst hitting team but with only two earned runs, got out of a big-time two-out bases-loaded jam in the seventh when he got a little help from his shortstop, Cozart, who made a sensational diving catch of a line shot for the third out.

Kline gave way to Bittle with two outs and a runner on second in the eighth. Bittle got Hollander to ground out to the second baseman.

After the Rebels went lightly in the top of the ninth, the Tigers and their fans willed this one to the win column. With one out, Mitchell reached on an infield single, a hard-hit ball to second baseman Zach Miller. DH Blake Dean singled as the hit and run was on and Mitchell ended up at third.

Up came Ochinko, and with him decision time for the Rebels. Eight straight pitches later, four to Ochinko and four to Schimpf, and the Rebels had gone down to defeat.

"There were some aggressive plays," Bianco said of his team's offensive approach, especially early. "We're trying to score. We haven't scored a lot of runs. We had to do that, especially when we haven't scored like we haven't."

Kline, like Bittle, was visibly frustrated after this one.

"We just didn't do enough on the mound or offensively to win a baseball game on a Friday night," he said. "It's just disappointing. We'll just have to play better tomorrow. We have to respond and bounce back."

LSU first-year head coach Paul Mainieri said his team was happy to get the victory over the highly-ranked and powerful Rebels.

"We've had a few games like this one with some exciting endings. Fortunately this one came out in our favor," he said. "Obviously they are a ranked team, and I really admire their team. Their kids play hard and they are so well coached. Their kid Kline was a real competitor on the mound. He competed every step of the way. This was a good win for us."

Ole Miss fell to 24-12 overall and 7-6 in the SEC with the loss. LSU is now 20-15-1 and 5-7-1 with the victory.

The Rebels have a chance to get back off the mat with a 3 p.m. first pitch on Saturday. The Rebels will start sophomore RHP Lance Lynn (3-2 record, 2.53 ERA). LSU will likely counter with either freshman righty T.J. Forrest (0-1, 3.46) or sophomore lefty Ryan Byrd (1-1, 5.59).

"It's disappointing," Bianco said of the loss. "Kline pitched really well and wasn't hit hard. Some balls found holes. But don't take anything away from LSU. They had 14 hits. They outplayed us tonight."

OM Spirit Top Stories